Friday, January 23, 2015

Armchair Gardening with the Best Garden Writers: Vita Sackville-West, Thalasso Cruso and Eleanor Perenyi

The author's garden in winter. Copyright L. Syratt 2013

When winter is in its full glory, all a gardener can see of her garden is the skeletal shapes of plants poking up through a blanket of snow. Gardening is out of the question. But reading a good book about gardening written by a garden writer is a pleasurable replacement during the long period between December and March.

A good gardening book can inspire garden designs and plant choices to implement after the great thaw. Some of the best books are still in print and easily ordered through bookshops or found online.

Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden

Green Thoughts, A Writer in the Garden, by Eleanor Perenyi, is a book of first-person essays on gardening, based on the author's own experiences. Readers will learn they should put ash from the fire onto the garden bed for a natural source of potassium, which helps plants become more disease-resistant, as well as strengthen the plants' root systems.

Perenyi's essays are very thorough, provocative and easy to read – written with both wit and charm. Since its first printing in 1981, Green Thoughts has become a classic armchair gardening book – to be read and savored.

To Everything There is a Season: The Gardening Year

To Everything There is a Season, the Gardening Year, by Thalassa Cruso, is another book that belongs on every gardener's bookshelf. It is written in first person, and as with Eleanor Perenyi's Green Thoughts, this too, is filled with helpful essays. The essays are organized by month with related information pertaining to gardening at that time of year. December, for example, includes essays about the waste of discarded Christmas trees, and another essay about holly.

Cruso has written her essays with strong sensitivity toward caring for the natural world. It is full of wise philosophies about gardening as well as offering snippets of her personal journey in gardening and her love of gardens and nature. Published in 1972, To Everything there is a Season, is still an important work for those interested in eco-gardening.

Vita Sackville-West's Garden Book

Vita Sackville-West's Garden Book is a small collection of essays put together by her daughter-in-law, Philippa Nicolson in the late 1960s. The essays in the collection were gleaned from Vita Sackville-West's own books of essays published in the 1950s, including, In Your Garden, In Your Garden Again, More for your Garden, and Even More for your Garden. And these essays were gathered from Sackville-West's weekly articles in Britain's Observer magazine, written from 1947 to 1961. Some of the original collections have been reprinted. First editions from the 1950s are rare, collectible and expensive.

Vita Sackville-West, along with her husband, Harold Nicolson were the creators of Sissinghurst, a world famous garden in Kent, England. Vita was a writer first, having had great success with several novels and poetry since the 1920s. It was only when she and her husband moved to Sissinghurst a decade later and began creating the gardens there that Vita started to write about gardening. She had a brilliant creative mind and offered her ideas readily to her readers every week.

Vita Sackville-West's Garden Book brings together some of those most popular essays and gives the reader a good perspective on English garden style. She writes about her famous white garden, protecting plants against frost, about roses andgroundcover plants, about keeping garden notes, and much more, and she does it with humor and charm.

Gardeners are passionate about their gardens. Writers who garden love to write about their own gardens. A little armchair gardening will help you pass the winter without missing the digging, planting, pruning, watering, weeding and mulching. It will come soon enough.

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